Drug-Free or C-Section: Giving Birth Is the Least Important Thing You'll Do as a Mom

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Before I get into this, I can’t tell you how many nights this topic as kept me awake. I’ve felt a lot of disappointment, I’ve shed tears, I’ve been angry. And then, in the end, I’ve decided that I’ve wasted a lot of time thinking about it. A friend recently did a post on her blog that mentioned it, and it got me thinking again, and this is the conclusion I’ve come to:

When I was first pregnant with Thing 1, I got me a midwife and made plans to birth in a birthing center. It was the experience I wanted. But then my pregnancy and body intervened and I ended up with my caesarian birth. Now, I’m not one of those women who feel like they were pressured by doctors, bullied into it, and left with lots of angry, resentful feelings. Because of the circumstances, I had some warning and was able to work through my feelings and prepare myself. I also had the best OB-GYN ever. And I can say, without any hesitation, that the day Thing 1 was born was the best day of my life. I feel the same about the day that Thing 2 was born. It was amazing. And for either day I can sincerely say that I have no regrets about the decision making process.

Despite the fact these two days were so wonderful, for some reason I still like to beat myself up over it. Outwardly, I’ve been all “It was the best thing for us, I’m grateful for the modern medicine that we have when we need it…” blah, blah, blah. But internally I’ve just felt a lot of guilt. But that is stupid. Guilt?!?! Guilt for WHAT exactly?

Margaret c-section

In the post my friend did on her blog, she talked about how she’d be confronted with the idea that mothers who give birth unmedicated love their babies more than women who birth via cesarean. I hope that I don’t need to point out to you how ridiculous that is. But, I’m going to frame it like this anyway:

I know a group of women (including my sister) who have built their family through adoption. They are the best moms I know. Unequivocally. (Sorry other moms I know, it’s just how it is.) Their love for the children is not less because someone else birthed them. (In fact, I would argue the opposite, but let us leave that out of it for now.) So then let me ask you this:

How important can birthing be to motherhood if someone else can do it for you and it doesn’t affect the way you mother at all? It is kind of an ordinary biological process when it comes down to it.

And if that is the case, it can’t really matter that much to your baby if he or she is born au natural in a birth center, or if you’re opened up for retrieval. I can pretty much guarantee that your baby couldn't care less. The end result for them was the same.*

I’m not arguing that birth is not important. I’m just arguing that it is a moment. And it is a moment that, in the long run, doesn’t really matter to your baby at all. And it has absolutely no bearing on how you love or parent that child. It is a moment more about the woman than it is the child. It is a moment that she will carry around with her for the rest of her life. It is a moment that she will remember often in other quiet moments as she ponders the life of her child. And it is a moment that she will celebrate in a private and special way every year on that child’s birthday. But it is a moment that each woman deserves to celebrate, no matter how the birth happened (even adoptive mothers). As such, the woman should just have the experience she wants. Be that at home or in a hospital, embracing the pain or all drugged up, there is just no reason to feel guilty about it. Your baby doesn’t care, and it is no one else’s business.

From here on out, when I hear someone expressing horror at the way someone else chose to do the birthing process, I’m going to put my foot down. I’ve always been an advocate for women being able to choose the experience they want to have, but what may need to be pointed out in conversations about these things is the implicit idea that if someone births “naturally” they are doing what is best for the baby because they love the baby more. That is bogus. And it is self-righteous. I think I’ll have no more of it.

*There are people who argue that the end result is not the same because of the risks involved. I’m gonna head that off at the pass by calling it out. Stats for cesarean births in the US are horribly skewed by two things. (1) A majority of women who deliver this way are minorities who live just above or below the poverty line. Another stat to describe this group is that they often go without quality prenatal care, for a variety of reasons. If access to good healthcare didn’t SUCK in the US, it would vastly change the cesarean stats. I’m not saying that there aren’t doctors who push it unnecessarily. I know that happens and I think it’s sad. When I advocate for women having the experience they want, it includes women who don’t want or need surgery. I’m just saying the whole thing is part of a greater problem and the data about health risks to the mother are skewed by other factors. (2) Cesarean stats generally include preterm emergency deliveries. That data is, of course, going to skew the reports on the health of cesarean born babies. I hear people, all the time, attribute health risks to cesareans that should actually be attributed to preterm birth. People ought to get their facts straight. And then donate to March of Dimes, because that is important.

In the end, even though I don’t advocate choosing cesarean if you don’t need to (the recovery is worse -- although not as bad as some would have you believe, but again that is more about mother than baby; do what you’d like.), the risk of a cesarean birth is not that much greater than giving birth at home hours away from the closest maternity ward. And I’m not saying that is dangerous either. More power to you if it is what you want to do; I’ve had friends who’ve had great experiences with it. But they are not better mothers than the friends I have who chose comfy hospital births with painkillers. That is all. 


Photo Credit: grendellion.


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